Doulas are a big thing here in the Washington DC area and it must be pretty overwhelming to choose one since there are so many of us. Since every pregnant individual is so unique, there’s certainly not one “correct” method for choosing. As with most decisions related to pregnancy and birthing, developing your own blend of requirements will help you feel 100% confident in your decision to hire a doula. This ensures you’ll have the most satisfying experience possible when taking advantage of what we have to offer. As someone who helps to guide and educate other doulas through mentorship, here are the qualities I’d recommend considering as you weigh your options.
- Location. If you are living in Washington DC proper or if you are planning on giving birth within Washington DC limits, especially with the GW midwives, it’s actually not essential that you choose your doula based on location, since almost all of us in the DMV birthing community are happy to travel into DC to attend meetings with you and of course, your birth. I can understand wanting to hire someone living and working in close proximity to you for the sake of convenience, but I can assure you that if we agree to the interview, that means our fee supports the cost of travel and parking, and of course the hours we’ll devote to supporting you. And there’s always video chat! When a client who’s not enrolled in my childbirth class hires me, I provide one video prenatal meeting and one in-person prenatal meeting. (Students are with me for 6 weeks for a total of 18 hours of instruction, so usually one prenatal meeting is sufficient in addition to the classes.)
- Fee. Obviously consumers will almost always consider cost when making any sort of investment or purchase. A doula is a unique consumer choice and the wide range of price points can be confusing. In my experience, $800 is an appropriate fee for a doula just starting out whereas doulas with more experience usually charge $1,000-$1,500. In some cities, $1,800+ is the going rate. It may be helpful to consider that a doula’s fee allows for the ability to be 100% physically and emotionally present with you at a moment’s notice. If a doula ends up losing money in order to attend a birth because of childcare, training, certification and business expenses, you could end up with a distracted, struggling doula at your birth. That’s not something that a consumer should ever have to deal with. Doulas will occasionally attend a birth pro bono in order to give back to the community and some will work on a sliding scale.
- Personality. A big part of the confidence in your decision is going to come from the way you feel about your doula’s presence, the way they respond to your questions and how you feel about their ability to be a comforting presence for you. You see, some people find a calm, laid-back person as the ideal doula and others know this personality trait will be unnerving to them — they’d want someone who’s more take-charge. While most doulas excel at morphing into either of these when you need it the most, as many birth scenarios will benefit from a combination of these traits, we also trust you to decide which person you want to be involved during your pregnancy journey. This is a good indicator of having chosen a doula who will become a trusted member of your support team when your big day comes.
- Philosophy. The only thing that’s really important to understand about your doula’s philosophy is whether they’re dedicated to understanding and committing to your philosophy. If you ask us for our personal philosophy and it’s obviously a strong match with your own, great! Then we could be a perfect match. But if you haven’t yet developed your own philosophy, or your philosophy happens to differ from ours, a good doula knows how to set aside their personal beliefs and support you as you are following your own decision-making process.
- Education and experience. This item ties somewhat to fee. If you’re investing in the range of $1,200-$1,800 for a doula, you certainly want to know that the price tag comes with everything that’s important to you, and for many people that will include experience and training. You’ll also want to reflect on the simplicity of doula support, that most doulas who stick with this profession have had a knack for it since they first got started. We definitely learn more tricks over time and become more adept at navigating the ins and outs of the birth room, but even brand-new doulas should be compensated well for the time and nurturing support they devote to their clients. If you carefully consider all of the above and how it meshes with your needs, you will trust the doula you choose. And that should mean you trust that the fee is set appropriately and commensurate with experience.
If this post was helpful for you, please share it with your Washington DC area friends who may be wondering how to choose a doula. I’d also be thrilled to chat with you about your needs — learn more about me and schedule a time here.